x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Arabic language makes the internet its domain

Middle East countries launch web addresses in Arabic script for first time

The Arabic digital world took a major leap forward yesterday as countries around the region launched the first Web addresses with domain names in Arabic script, and Dubizzle said it would go completely bilingual. Egypt announced yesterday that it was the first country in the world to launch a domain name in non-Latin characters - "???.", or ".Misr", the Arabic word for Egypt.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia were also granted permission to launch their own country-specific domain names by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit body that oversees internet addresses. For example, if you type in ".Emarat" in Arabic, your Web browser will be directed to a Web page that instructs UAE internet users how to sign up for their own domain name in Arabic characters. Saudi Arabia will use the ".AlSaudiah" domain suffix.

"Users in the region will now have easier access to the internet, with the ability to use their primary language for the entire domain name," ICANN said in a statement. Meanwhile, Dubizzle, an online classified advertisement website that receives more than 33 million page views a month, said it would have its entire website translated into Arabic as early as next month. JC Butler, the co-founder and managing director of Dubizzle, said the company had spent the past nine months building several features that would allow advertisements to be automatically cross-listed in English and Arabic.

"It's really trying to cover all the bases and allow people who don't speak the same language to sell products," said Mr Butler. The initiatives are key to increasing the amount of online content published in Arabic. It is estimated that only 1 per cent of all online content is in Arabic, despite there being about 300 million native speakers around the world. dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae